ESPN's Hugo Balta on Sports, Multicultural Content, and Storytelling to Effectively Reach the Latino Audience
Storytelling Innovator Series

ESPN’s Hugo Balta on Sports, Multicultural Content, and Storytelling to Effectively Reach the Latino Audience

Hugo Balta, the senior director of multicultural content for ESPN, is a man with a deep passion for journalism. A dedicated advocate for advancing the welfare of the Latino community, Balta is also the most recent past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ). He’s been celebrated for his volunteer leadership, and he received the Hispanic Heritage Leadership award in 2014.

In this interview, I had the opportunity to speak with Hugo as he prepared for his speaker session at Hispanicize 2015, a leading event for Latino trendsetters and newsmakers in journalism, blogging, marketing, entertainment, and tech entrepreneurship. Make sure to follow Hugo Balta on Twitter and visit his blog.

Question: Tell us about yourself! What prepared you for the senior director role you now have and how did you get here?

I lead initiatives in raising the quality, profile, and delivery of diverse news gathering and storytelling, targeting English and Spanish speaking US Hispanics. Years of studying, leading initiatives, and volunteer work with Diversity and Inclusion have afforded me invaluable experiences that have prepared me for this opportunity.

Q: Where have you been published? What’s an industry event that you have coming up?

I have been published by Fox News Latino, Voxxi, PRSA [Public Relations Society of America], the Seattle Times, and others. I will be speaking at the LATINUM Spring Roundtable hosted by the Walt Disney Company and ESPN Deportes.

Q: Content marketing seems to be changing constantly. There are new content formats, channels to address, and technologies to leverage. How has you organization adapted to the changes? What has stayed the same?

ESPN has always been at the forefront of new technology in an effort to best produce and deliver content; they use these tools to engage audiences in personal and unique ways.

At the heart of everything ESPN does, regardless of platform and network, is storytelling. ESPN goes to great lengths to ensure that the content they produce is not only fair and accurate, but also thought-provoking and entertaining. We want to make sure that audiences walk away informed, empowered, and inspired.

Q: What differences, if any, do you see between content marketing as related to the US Hispanic and Latin American markets vs. the general market?

There are certain nuances that make each of the three markets mentioned unique. While all certainly have common threads, understanding their differences is what makes multicultural content relevant to each. For example, it is simplistic to place 54 million US Hispanics into a nice little box in the way the US Census does; the truth is, they are anything but simple. There is no one turn-key approach.

It would be easy, and perhaps cost effective, to just focus marketing on the commonalities between both markets, but it would also be wrong and doomed to fail.

Q: Can you tell us more about why you spoke at Hispanicize 2015?

Like the NAHJ, Hispanicize champions the Latino community by providing a much-needed platform that allows them to network, innovate, and lead. The programming at Hispanicize 2015 is demonstrative of the diversity opportunity Latinos provide not only in industries focused on them, but also in general.

As Latinos continue to strive to break free of confining stereotypes about who they are and what they can be, organizations and events like Hispanicize 2015 serve not to place them on a pedestal, but instead to establish equal footing for the Latino community.

Q: What are you working on innovating at your company?

We are currently working to expand the breadth of our content in order to reflect an increasingly growing diverse audience by progressively changing the current corporate culture.

Q: What current or recent projects are you especially proud of? Why?

I would have to say the expansion of ESPN’s One Nación. ON is the banner that ESPN has waved for the past two years in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.

During those four weeks, both networks across all platforms produced content focused on US Hispanic sports fans, culminating with a bilingual television special that runs simultaneously on ESPN and ESPN Deportes—the first and only of its kind.

Q: What are the top three lessons you’ve learned in business and/or marketing?

Be inclusive. It is my experience that any idea I present often evolves into a better, more dynamic one when shared with others.

Give credit to others. When one acknowledges the work of others it builds trust, pride, and confidence, which will result in future successful projects.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Taking chances and making mistakes is a critical component of innovation.

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